Name-checked by journalist Caroline Coon, The Bromley Contingent, are probably the most frequently mentioned fan mob in Punk history. Mostly hailing from the south London commuter belt of Bromley and Chislehurst, this fan gang became almost as important to Punk as the bands, and contained within it, future pop stars, a future club promoter, a photographer, at least a couple of shop assistants and more than one style icon.
Bromleys including, Siouxsie, Debbie Juvenile, Philip Sallon, Simon Barker, Steve Severin, Soo Catwoman, and Linda Ashby.
With various members appearing alongside the Sex Pistols on the infamous Bill Grundy television interview in December 1976, and accompanying the band on their Silver Jubilee boat trip, they were the faces of London’s first wave scene. If you’ve ever got your Debbie Juvenile’s confused with your Siouxsie Sioux’s…read on….
Siouxsie Sioux is the most obviously well-known of our favourite suburban hooligans, and used the advent of punk as a springboard into her own band, playing at the September 1976 Punk Festival at the 100 Club in London. Pre-Banshees proper, Siouxsie was also one of the gang who were invited along to the Sex Pistols infamous Bill Grundy television debacle. She went on to become a major force in the world of post punk as the driving force behind Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Debbie Juvenile, although hailing from north of the river, Debbie hung out with the Bromley’s and features in many of the photos from the early punk days. She is easily recognisable with her spiked bottle blonde hair and kohled eyes. Debbie was an assistant at Vivienne and Malcolm’s Seditionaries shop on the Kings Road, along with Jordan and Tracie O’Keefe. It was Debbie who was drafted in to sell the programmes on the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK” Tour, which featured an image of Soo Catwoman on the Jamie Reid designed cover.
Soo Catwoman, again not a native Bromolian, but with her shaved and dyed hair carefully contorted into cat ears, Soo became something of an instant hit. As well as being one of the most original dressers during the first wave, she went onto to release several records as the singer of The Invaders and became the “face” of punk when she appeared on the cover of the Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK tour programme.
Former BBC costume assistant, Philip Sallon, was the dandified dude about town who, after Punk, focused his dressing up skills on the New Romantic movement. One of the first openly gay Punks, Philip became a core member of the Blitz Kids alongside Steve Strange, Boy George and Marilyn. Philip launched his clubbing career at Planets in Piccadilly, employing a young George O’Dowd as the resident DJ, before moving on to host The Mudd Club.
Simon Barker after his appearance alongside Siouxsie, Steve Severin and Simone, he became better known as the photographer “Six”. As an untrained snapper, his pictures capture the family album side of the contingent, the unplanned moments, the hanging out, all taken without the thought that they would ever be published. 40 years after the event, Six has recently published a tome of these photographs he took during the first wave of punk called “Punk’s Dead”
Bertie “Berlin” Marshall ” I think Malcolm McLaren had the notion of creating a scene around the Sex Pistols like the Factory around Andy Warhol and the Velvets. I think some journalist from the NME named us the Bromley Contingent. I can’t really remember. For me, having some kind of group identity at the time wasn’t a problem: I was glad there were other freaks out there I could be friends with.” from 3am magazine
Punk was probably the first and maybe only youth culture to celebrate its fans along with the bands. This was Punk in action as the great leveller, and for a short time, members of the Bromley Contingent also acted as sign-posts along the Punk back streets which led to something more meaningful than the drab mainstream culture was offering. Punk pioneers the lot of them. Part 2 coming soon….